Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

The New Television Season (Fall 2007)

I always look forward to the new Fall season on TV. I generally watch as much as I can in September and over the years, there have been some surprises, much banality, a great deal of repetition, and on occasion the extraordinary show that marks a new phase in the history of the medium.

This September, however would rate as one of the worst starts to a new season that I have ever experienced. Not only are the plots repetitious, derivative and generally unimaginative, the shows themselves are shot with no attention to detail, camerawork, or aesthetic differentiation. Many of the shows involve some sort of "supernatural" shift either through time travel — JourneymanHeroesLife (yes, that is the title) or through extra powers gained by God or medicine — Bionic Woman. Others are centred on close equivalents to time travel like Lost.

Then we have the medical shows with Grey's Anatomy having now developed a new lens that softens the eyes of its characters so that everyone looks like Meredith Grey. I call it the SQUINT. This is a mode of acting that makes you look sensitive when you are not, involved and attentive when you are not, and most of all empathetic (with an emphasis on the pathetic).

There are the police shows and the anti-terrorist shows like NCIS — with its tired characters, silly intrigue and CSI-like use of forensics by a goth character who seems to use computers that can find any information and a pathologist who listens to the souls of the dead to gather information.

The Reaper is about the devil (yes, the devil appears) and 'his' ownership of the main character's soul. Do what I tell you or you too will go to hell. I believe that this might be the twentieth incarnation of this type of show, just as Journeyman is Quantum Leap and Time Traveler retold.

I won't talk about the obvious relationships between Smallville and Bionic Woman, or Gossip Girl and the OC — the former about the tragedy of the superhuman and the latter about yet another bunch of rich kids with the same jealousies and school experiences as every other show ever situated in that key age of 0-21.

No need to mention the endless repetitions of Law and Order, CSI and CSI - other cities. There must be a logic to the patterns here and it is sheer lack of imagination.

Oh, catch Mad Men on AMC. It is the only show that actually tries to explore some new strategies of storytelling and aesthetically, it is beautiful. Set in 1960 in an advertising agency, we are presently in the final days of the battle between Nixon and Kennedy for the Presidency.